There was a jumble market every Monday afternoon in the old market-place in town. Ursula and Birkin1 strayed down there one afternoon. They had been talking of furniture, and they wanted to see if there was any fragment they would like to buy. [...]
The old market-square was not very large, a mere bare patch of granite setts, usually with a few fruit-stalls under a wall. It was in a poor quarter of the town. Meagre houses stood down one side, there was a hosiery factory, a great blank with myriad oblong windows at the end, a street 6f little shops with flagstone pavement, the public baths, of new red brick, with a clock-tower. [...]
Ursula was superficially thrilled when she found herself out among the common people, in the fumbled place piled with old bedding, heaps of old iron, shabby crockery in pale lots, muffed lots of unthinkable clothing. She and Birkin went unwillingly down the narrow aisle between the rusty wares. He was looking at the goods, she at the people.
She excitedly watched a young woman who was going to have a baby, and who was turning over a mattress and making a young man, down-at-heel and dejected, feel it also. [...] When they had felt the mattress, the young woman asked the old man seated on a stool among his wares how much it was. He told her and she turned to the young man. The latter was ashamed and self-conscious. He turned
his face away, though he left his body standing there, and muttered aside. And again thewoman anxiouslyand actively fingered the mattress and added up in her mind and bargained with the old, uncleanman. All the while the young man stood by, shamefaced and down-at-heel, submitting.
"Look," said Birkin, "there is apretty chair."
"Charming!" cried Ursula. "Oh, charming." It was an arm-chair of simple wood, probably birch, but of such fine delicacy of grace, standing there on the sordid stones, it almost brought tears to the eyes. It was square in shape of the purest, slender lines, and four short lines of wood in the back, that reminded Ursula of harp-strings.
"It was once," said Birkin, "gilded —and it had a cane seat. Somebody has nailed this wooden seat in. Look, here is a trifle of the red that underlay the gilt. The rest is all black, except where the wood is worn pure and glossy. It is the fine unity of the lines that is so attractive. Look, how they run and meet and counteract. But of course the wooden seat is wrong —it destroys the perfect lightness and unity in tension the cane gave. I like it though — "
"Ah yes," said Ursula, "so do I."
"How much is it?" Birkin asked the man.
"And you will send it —?"
It was bought.
(D. H. Lawrence. Women in Love)
1 Birkin and Ursula are going to get married.
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